In my previous post I discussed the different sources of parenting information I encountered. In this post I share with you how my own blend of theories developed and why that blend is important to me.
I grew in favor of the attachment-style parenting as I considered the psychological theories behind attachment-style and Babywise approaches. As I said, the former is based on attachment theory, a relatively newer theory in psychology (1960’s). The latter, I think, is based on behaviorist theory, which has been around for over 100 years. I believe the age of the theories is the source of variance in how established each parenting style is. My generation’s parents would not have been raised with attachment theory in mind because it was not yet defined (though it could easily have been intuitively drawn from). They did have Dr. Spock encouraging a move away from rigid timetables in parenting.
En medio stat viritus. Attachment style parenting recommendations are possible only with difficulty when children are born close together. Schedules and structure in the home are important. But behaviorism negates an emotional life for children, in stark contrast to the psycho-dynamic theory it competed with. Believing my baby crying is her way of expressing distress, I want to respond. I cannot always respond. But a child does not need me to respond every time, and each cry has it’s own shade or tone that tells me if I need to run across the house or if it can wait. I have children with different personalities. Parenting is an art and no theory can be applied evenly across children.
Some children train more easily than others. Some sleep more easily than others. But all children exist. We are so ideologically driven its difficult to discuss this with anyone unless they believe exactly as you do. I’m in favor of the theory that makes life easier. For me, that means co-sleeping, nursing on demand, moving kids to a crib as soon as possible because I want my bedroom back, and singing before bedtime. I will have my oldest check on my youngest by asking her to see if the baby is in danger. What attention I cannot give successive children is fulfilled in part by the attention they receive from their siblings who are close enough in age to have similar humor and interests.
This is how I came to support free range parenting. I believe its good for kids and natural. But as Michael Brendan Dougherty points out, this is not be as possible as I wish it could because of the slow demise of neighborhoods. We’ve chosen to live in a small town where people do look out for each other. We’re not likely to have CPS called on us if our children, three years from now walk to the park a block-and-a-half away. But we support the idea! We encourage the independence not because we believe independence should be added to Aristotle’s list of virtues, but because freedom from adults facilitates children’s play, imagination and problem solving skills. We want to be a secure base. My newly emerged toddler (13 months old) runs to sit on my lap, runs back to the other children, back and forth. I’m her secure base.
My personality will affect how I parent. My husband’s personality will affect how he parents. I will hover more because I am more anxious. He will hover less because he does not multi-task well. Our children will affect the style of our parenting. The child who won’t stop crying, despite soothing attempts, will cry longer. Just as I wrote before about not worrying about what Kate Middleton wears after childbirth, we don’t need to get hung up on what other parents’ do. I have a problem when parents put forth parenting philosophies without being able discuss them. It would be nice if we could discuss them theoretically, but since the development of one’s parenting theory is an “every man for himself” battle in this society, it feels like we’re up against enough to show we’re making the right decision.
In the end, I believe, if you lived a stable life, the children will probably turn out pretty well. If life for you or your children was unstable, something in that’s child rearing will need to compensate. The compensation could come in the form of the partner you choose to raise your children with, or the parenting practices you undertake. Aristotle said for he who is immersed in a habit of vice that he would like to overcome, he can throw himself in the opposite direction (the brazen man should try to be overly cautious). Since his habit is in one extreme, he will not become the opposite extreme even if he tries, he will land somewhere in the middle. I had, perhaps, too much independence as a child, so we started with attachment-style parenting. As my habits settle and I become more and more the mother I want to be and the best fit for my children, I find that medio where peace and virtue are found.